My Twitter Confessions: Learn How To Tweet

Twitter has been my lifeblood as a growing designer and likely for you too. You could be missing the boat with your tweets. Here are my confessions on how to get the most out of this great service.

As the internet community grows, we find a lot of new reasons to try out new and fresh technologies, networks, apps, and the like. Its not that often where we are actually using these networks in the best way possible. Twitter stands as a huge culprit, not to any fault of its own, that is both underused and misunderstood.

I have a lot to thank twitter for. A few years back, been using twitter for 3 years now, there was a lot I didn’t know (still don’t). Most pervy to my success as a designer, was trying to figure out what was new and trendy. This ranges from new techniques and styles, new programs, to letterpress and web 2.0, design grids, the list goes on, discovering so many things.

In a way, it changes and adapts to best fit its individual users; at least it has the flexibility but it is ultimately determined by the people who use it.

There are a lot of things we learn in school and a lot to learn outside of school. Twitter was my gateway to all things design outside of academic pursuit. When I found out about twitter, I knew I had to be on it. I didn’t know what it was, what it could do for me, but I saw designers were on it and it seemed intergral in their artistic pursuits. This is an all things guide to using twitter.

What is twitter

There is short and sweet version of this and then there is a long and extended version. Lets try the middle road. It is important to understand that the definition of twitter changes per the user. In a way, it changes and adapts to best fit its individual users; at least it has the flexibility but it is ultimately determined by the people who use it.

As it is by my definition, I recognize this is slightly open ended, but I will narrow our focus by saying what twitter is for a designer. In terms of freelance, designers have an incredible playing field to reach out to people we never would have been able to, doing so by simply using our interests as a group or searching tool: design. Its like going to a designers party and sharing business cards, showing off websites, checking out new styles, etc; a schmorgesborg of design aficionados, beginners, experts, wannabes. There is a huge wealth of knowledge to tap into from designers who have been there before or trying to get there and you can be surprised how much both parties have to offer.

But if you care

This might be the most complicated part of twitter: the using. Its easy to be on and tweet and retweet but how is this enhancing your database of knowledge we talked about earlier? If you don’t have any followers and no one has heard your name, where do you begin? It can be a little daunting and some still few it that way. One thing twitter isn’t? Easy.

Well, sure, it is easy if you aren’t doing it right. When twitter becomes hardwork then you know you’re using it correctly. The reason it gets hard, and is the most crucial fact to all business relationships, is you start to care. If you don’t care, then twitter is easy and it will go either way on you. But if you care…

If you care, I am sorry that I just gave your secret away. Here are 3 things you need to care about if you want to be great with twitter:

  • Great and High Quality Design
  • Your own Artwork
  • Those you follow and those who follow you

These are the quintessential points for a designer on twitter—love great design, be proud of your work, and appreciate your fanclubs. I wish I could break this down in order for you, most to least important, but as any structure system, if one goes they all go. You can’t be a designer and care about your twitter relationships if you don’t value good design; if you’re unhappy with your own art, you wont appreciate the art around you. Building these relationships with yourself and followers goes a long way and it isn’t easy. Conversely, you can be proud of your artwork (even if it isn’t good) but value great design—this is a very progressive mindset and one you should always keep. This is no secret. People can spot those who use twitter solely for buzz—those tweets resound with no value and fall flat.

When to be online

When working with twitter, to be successful at it and for it to be successful for you, you have to be on it all the time. While there is some merit to tweeting “out of office hours”, I don’t. As I value the above 3 pillars, I also value the relationships that I build with people outside of twitter, etc. I don’t advocate 24/7 use of twitter, but healthy use from 8am to 6pm is important. Don’t forget, most business happens in the morning—be online!

Tweet and Retweet

If you’re on twitter for the 3 pillars, you’re going to find success. Success usually comes from a smart mind or a talented mind. If you aren’t talented, be smart (and vise-versa). Know what to tweet and retweet. People genuinely aren’t interested in knowing if you had a ham sandwich; some might be interested in a really fancy sandwich you had at some lost forgotten city in the middle of the ocean—see the difference? While the topics are actually the same, one provides useful information and one doesn’t, a more insightful tweet that will yield better results. Users who care about that sort of thing will find you and the same goes with design.

One thing twitter isn’t? Easy.

Understanding that twitter is a little selfish, as most people are on to learn something, we should call it more academic than anything. So provide content to people that they will appreciate you sharing and make sure that is content you care about. Retweeting is a powerful tool of helping the person who developed that content and also your followers. You are sharing quality content. Do this too often, and it becomes insincere (remember the pillars) and comes off as not caring.

Follow the right people

Following the right people makes all the difference. Aside from the obvious, don’t follow Chris Brown if you don’t like his music, don’t follow nondesigners expecting design driven content. There are three types of design tweeters:

  1. Designers with huge followings
  2. Designers who are slowly building followers
  3. Designers with little or no followers

I am the second designer in this category. Its important you figure out which you are and be honest. I recognize that I have a small twitter base, but is steadily growing. Keep in mind that having large followings doesn’t mean you are a great designer. If you have little or no followers, but care about the pillars of having a great twitter handle, then the amount of work you put in will always be the same. The things you do to get followers and the things you do to keep them, are the same!

My twitter soapbox

I will save you from my incantations of telling you about nearly 3 years of my twitter history and instead hit some key points. I started out with zero followers. A key way of getting followers is producing great content. Produce great, great content all the time and find the right people to tweet (share it to). I spent the right amount of time to follow people like Olli, James White, Chuck Anderson, Franz Jeitz, and Abduzeedo, and the list goes on. These were my “celebs” (1st type of design tweeters) and they helped me with providing great content. Among the many other twitter accounts I followed, I grew and learned a lot. Looking back, I know why it was tough to get followers—I had no real valuable, experience driven, content; so I made sure to always work hard to provide some. I also made sure to follow the other 2 gategories of design twitters. These categories, you often find, that these users are more apt to interact with you because they are trying to build great content and foster relationships; in a way, you grow together.

Twitter, those I follow and follow me, have shown me a design world I never knew existed before I came on. I have learned a incredible amount of knowledge of our industry that replicates being in different facets of our “labor world”. Through twitter, I have garnered multiple opportunties for work, interviews, and how I met the fine fellows: Chad Mueller and Andrew Dertinger. Someone retweeted them, who retweeted them and so on and so forth, I found a great opportunity to show content I was proud of (my understanding of web design) and siezed the opportunity. A few bashes later about the Inspiredology design and we kept in touch for a while. Essentially, twitter shared this blog (which I had never found before) and I found a community—that kind of power is very impressive. I am very thankful for that.

The things you do to get followers and the things you do to keep them, are the same!

When you look at twitter, make sure you are following all 3 types of design tweeters and practicing the 3 pillars of how to use twitter. You’ll find relationships with designers willing to do the same as you, sharing and caring. The social media realm is incredibly powerful in our line of work. Much about design is word of mouth so make sure you’re taking advantage of the best tool out there.

How often do you use twitter to better yourself and business? Do you think it is a valuable tool for building great business relationships? Let us know what you think in the comments!